Tips for Job Seekers Over Age 50

According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, older workers have been especially hard hit by the stagnant job market.

Of the 5 million people out of work for 6 months or more, 53 percent are age 55 and older, and the duration of unemployment for those 55 and older is 52.7 weeks, much higher than the 36.1 weeks for younger workers.

If you’re older than 50, 2013 is not looking any better, although there are some signs of encouragement. That’s especially true for the 40 to 50 demographic.

“What older jobseekers are finding is temporary and contract work with no benefits,” says Laurie Rosen, Executive Career Specialist with the Jewish Vocational Service. “Many employers don’t want to pay the salaries that experienced older workers want,” she explains. “And age discrimination is a factor as well.”

Don’t Despair, Just Prepare

Although the job hunt can be long and arduous, here are a few practical tips:

  • Don’t be passive and rely on Internet job postings. Your application often ends up in the human resources vortex, never to be seen or read.
  • Target companies you’d like to work for and network with employees you know there. Reach the hiring manager.
  • Consider a professional resume writer. Then, tailor your resume for the job you are pursuing. One size does not fit all.
  • It’s essential that you get current with social media, especially LinkedIn. Add the address for your LinkedIn profile on your resume. Do the same for Twitter if you have a handle. And if you have a Facebook presence, make certain it’s sanitized.
  • Your “brand” is your career identity. It should explain to employers what you can do for them.

Interview Dos and Don’ts 

As an older employee you’ll want to appear up-to-date and well groomed. Your appearance should not be factor or give the interviewer a negative impression. A few tips from Laurie Rosen:

  • No gray beard on men. Shave it off and grow it back later.
  • Men, make certain your ear and nose hair is trimmed.
  • Women should wear minimal makeup and jewelry.
  • If you color your hair, get it done professionally.
  • If your eyeglasses are more than 20 years old, it’s time for a new pair.
  • Don’t slouch during the interview. Be positive and smile.
  • Create a 30-second “elevator speech” that you can use when you get the inevitable question: “So tell me about yourself.” Practice it, but don’t make it sound like a script.

Valuable Resources

Chicago-area jobseekers are fortunate to have many good resources to energize your job search. And don’t forget about the value of networking. Get away from the computer screen, get out of the house and connect.

Top-notch groups you can tap include:

  • Career Resource Center: Based out of Lake Forest, the center describes itself as a “proven confidence-building, re-employment resource featuring individualized attention and coaching by industry professionals.”
  • Career Renewal Ministry: Described as a support ministry for those seeking employment. It’s co-sponsored by Holy Cross Catholic Church and St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church, both in Deerfield. Assistance is provided without regard to gender, race, creed or national origin and is in no way restricted to members of sponsoring parishes.
  • Work Ministry: Based in Lisle, the group does career coaching, workshops, provides resume assistance and helps with career transition strategy. The group is open to all, regardless of religious affiliation.